A while ago I became strangely depressed, after I found out that a woman I used to be in love with had purchased a $400,000 home with her boyfriend. I felt a mysterious surge of anger at her, but I didn't know why. The news rolled around in my head for a while and then sailed out. Just now, while waiting for an OS X install and thinking unrelated thoughts about chocolate, I stumbled upon the explanation.
I remembered our last exchange.
I had stopped by her parents' house, passing through town on a trip from Sacramento, to drop off a sandwich for her. It was from a restaurant she enjoyed but didn't get to visit very often, and I thought she'd appreciate the gesture when she discovered it in her parents' fridge. I knocked on the door and greeted her mother, preparing to hand over the take-out bag, say a few kind words, and then turn around and leave. To my surprise, her mother said, "Hang on, I'll go upstairs and tell her you're here."
I offered to deliver the bag myself, but she insisted I stay downstairs. Eventually the woman came down.
I greeted her and offered her the sandwich, but she refused. I couldn't understand why. She opened the door to the back yard and led me outside, where we sat in the grass to talk about it. Apparently she was going to refuse my gift because, as she put it, "I want to be sure that I'm doing things because I want them, not because anyone wants me to do anything. Right now I'm trying to keep all the influences, from everyone, separate from myself, so I can figure out exactly what I want. I think it's the only way I'll ever make progress."
Ever the selfless and encouraging sort, I took back the sandwich and said "no hard feelings", shook her hand, waved to her parents, and drove happily away. And as far as I could remember last year, that's how the story ended. I remembered feeling a bit resentful later on, that she'd refused a gift from someone who had always been her advocate, and had worked very hard for her. It was a bit of a sour note, but still a decent end to things. No reason for me to feel the mysterious burst of anger that came surging up recently.
But just now I remembered the rest of it. A few days after that encounter, I had rewound the scene and put the obvious clues together, and realized that while she was in the back yard delivering a trite speech to me about refusing influence, maintaining independence, and confirming personal boundaries, her new boyfriend was asleep in her bed upstairs.
I had tried very hard - wrenched my heart around - to maintain a positive spin on our relationship during the time after our breakup. But at that moment I realized the truth - she had spent half our relationship using me, and the other half trying to drive me away. Other people, or men in general, were never her problem. I was.
It would have been stupid of me to remain in that relationship, just as it had been stupid for me to initiate it in the first place. Yet we were both dumb kids and we had to learn what not to do. At the time I left her, I wrote down a slurry of private thoughts in my journal about the new boy she had met. I knew he was an older man, a more physically attractive man, and not the suffering creative type I was at the time. I theorized that his experienced aloofness would be powerfully attractive to my ex, and would trigger her desire to compete. At the time, the phrase I used was, "she's going to become the captured animal of an older man."
Naturally, I was a bitter, cranky ex-boyfriend, with plenty of bile to spew. Once I had my angst out, I forgot about her for long periods of time, and hoped sincerely that she had diversified after me, perhaps to date a few more men, perhaps to date a few women as she had always been curious to do. I fancied she was an artist hosting galleries in San Francisco, or had spontaneously discovered acting, or moved to a European town and met someone entirely new. I drafted a few letters to her, but never sent them, content instead to leave her history unknown.
Instead, I found out she had been with that same man all these four years, and had now bought a house with him in the same neighborhood I left her. My surge of anger now made sense. She had disappointed me.
All I can say is, thank goodness I came across this information after finding my beloved, the redheaded dynamo I have a life with now. When I told her about this, she said, "I know how aggravating it can be when folks from the past are disappointing. But she freed you to find me!"
I instantly felt better.